A spry look from No Easy Days after his victory on Friday with Angel Cruz aboard (Jim McCue/MJC)
Turf Allowance Sprint, 2YO Maiden Race Top Saturday Program
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
LAUREL, Md.— Winner’s Circle Partners XII’s No Easy Days powered past high-priced yearling Uncle Jake, exiting the April 8 Wood Memorial (G2), on the far turn and dug in late to turn back favored Eldest Son and spring a 12-1 upset in Friday’s feature at Laurel Park.
Ridden by Angel Cruz for trainer Damon Dilodovico, No Easy Days ($26.20) completed one mile over a main track rated good in 1:37.54 to edge Jamie Ness-trained Eldest Son, the 4-5 favorite, by a half-length in the entry-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds.
In for a $62,500 tag, No Easy Days was not claimed racing for the first time since finishing sixth after setting the pace in a similar spot going 1 1/16 miles May 14 at historic Pimlico Race Course. Each of the first three finishers in that race – It’s Viper, Adero and Eldest Son – came back to win next out while Time to Cruise, who ran fourth, subsequently was second in the Crowd Pleaser at Parx.
“In the Pimlico race he kind of made the lead and couldn’t hold, and he had such an easy pace. I feel like it was a day where pace just wasn’t holding,” Dilodovico said. “Coming out of the race, I was pretty confident that we could get to a good effort. It’s just taken forever to get him in.”
Uncle Jake, a 9 ½-length maiden winner March 10 at Laurel in his second start and first for leading trainer Brittany Russell, was eager in his first race since the Wood and led through a quarter mile in 23.03 seconds and a half in 46.11 pressed by No Easy Days with Goodafternoonoscar tracking in third.
No Easy Days swept past Uncle Jake midway around the turn and Cruz set the American Freedom gelding down for a sustained drive to hold off Eldest Son, who trailed early before splitting horses in mid-stretch to make his belated bid. Goodafternoonoscar was third, followed by Uncle Jake, Wicked Secret and New York Panther. Lamarvelous was scratched.
“I did have to change his training to work out some issues he was having and, once we did that, his last couple works were really strong. He just turned it around and hopefully he can keep it there,” Dilodovico said. “Today, coming off the long layoff, he was somewhat there early and still was able to hold off Jamie Ness. That doesn’t happen too often.”
No Easy Days was claimed for $50,000 out of his 2-year-old finale last November, when he ran second behind April 8 Bay Shore (G3) winner Joey Freshwater at Churchill Downs. He graduated second time out for Dilodovico in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight over a sloppy Laurel track Feb. 12.
Dilodovico hoped No Easy Days’ win would be a boost for Stewart Nickel, owner of Potomac Computer Services in Gaithersburg, Md. and managing partner of the Winner’s Circle Partners syndicate who the trainer said underwent a lung transplant earlier this year.
“He’s been up and down with that, so this will definitely pick him up,” Dilodovico said. “Hopefully that all works out well.”
Turf Allowance Sprint, 2YO Maiden Race Top Saturday Program
Paper Mansion, from the barn of red-hot trainer Jamie Ness, 5-year-old Fast Lani and stakes-placed Island Philo and Awesome Jazz are among eight fillies and mares entered for Saturday’s Race 7 feature at Laurel Park.
Ness, who earned his 4,000th career victory with Sing Scat in Laurel’s July 16 opener, extended his streak to 20 consecutive calendar days of winning at least one race before scratching with his only scheduled starter Thursday at Delaware Park. He entered Friday with 35 wins in the month of July.
Claimed for $25,000 last May at Parx, Paper Mansion has won two of five starts for Ness and has three wins and five thirds from 12 career races. She returns to the grass for the first time in her third start this year, an open 5 ½-furlong allowance sprint scheduled for the Fort Marcy turf course.
Fast Lani is the 9-5 program favorite, having run second in her two starts this year, both sprinting on the grass, beaten a neck by next-out winner Canadian Ginger May 27 at historic Pimlico Race Course and eight-time winner Afandi June 25 at Laurel. Island Philo was third to Spun Glass in the 2022 Camptown and Jameela, the latter by a half-length at Laurel. In between she was second by a neck in a Laurel allowance to Awesome Jazz, runner-up in the 2021 All Brandy.
A maiden special weight for 2-year-old fillies sprinting 5 ½ furlongs on the main track comes up in Race 2. Trainer Jerry Robb sends out a pair of top contenders in No Guts No Glory Farm’s homebred Remember Me, second in a similar spot going five furlongs July 1 at Laurel, and first-time starter Viennese Waltz, a $125,000 daughter of Honor Code. Three others are entered for their debut including First to Arrive, by Liam’s Map, bred and owned by Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds trained by summer meet leader Brittany Russell.
Race 8 is an intriguing starter optional claimer for 3-year-olds and up going one mile featuring twice Grade 3-placed The King Cheek, head winner of the 2021 Sir Barton at Pimlico; and stakes winner Clubman, multiple stakes-placed Bobby G and Hot N Spicy Love, who have combined to win 51 of 220 lifetime starts.
There will be carryovers of $3,715.99 in the $1 Jackpot Super High Five (Race 6) and $2,348.44 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 (Races 4-9). First race post time is 12:25 p.m.
Jockey Jean Briceno swept the early daily double with Espresso Lungo ($9.80) in Race 1 and Jane Street ($6) in Race 2 … Not the 1 Stable, Inc.’s Liquidator ($4.80) wrested the lead from Happy Clouds inside the eighth pole and went on to a popular win Race 7, an optional claiming allowance for 3-year-old fillies, in 1:04.39 for 5 ½ furlongs on a fast main track. It was the sixth career win for Liquidator, all at Laurel, where she also has three seconds and a third from 14 starts.